Are you part of the Sandwich Generation? Most people think of this term as being specific to one particular generation, but it really crosses several generations. You might be in your late 30’s or even in your 60’s and find yourself “Stuck in the Middle” of kids, career, and taking care of aging parents.
Caregiving aging parents is a marathon, not a sprint! We underestimate the obligation of caregiving. Many adult children step up to be the primary hands-on caregiver having no idea of the length of time, the physical and emotional exhaustion, or the financial impact involved. We often feel stressed and overwhelmed because we not only have too much to do, but also too many people demanding too much of us.
In many ways you become the CEO of a very small assisted living facility… juggling multiple health care providers, appointments, services and support staff, hiring and directing care workers, providing transportation and food, managing insurance bills, and administering medications while still trying to be their child. Chronic care maintenance is very complicated, and you do not have the training for all these tasks and issues.
So you think you can burn the candle at both ends—do it ALL! That might work for some months, but you could be caring for your parents almost as long as you spent raising your kids. At a recent workplace Lunch-N-Learn the presenter asked the audience what was the most surprising aspect of caregiving. One man raised his hand and said “The Time!” Someone else exclaimed that it was the financial support. Caregivers are stuck between tuition for kids, funding your own retirement, and providing financial support for your parents.
Often you feel alone, isolated, and without support from your family. Even good families become dysfunctional when presented with the tasks of caregiving. Only 10% of primary caregivers feel that the responsibility of caregiving is equally distributed within the family.
Being a caregiver can be one of the most rewarding jobs, but also one of the hardest. If you are prepared it can be rewarding. If you are unprepared and struggling to understand all the caregiving issues involved, it can definitely be one of the hardest and most mentally and physically draining jobs of a lifetime. Many times the adult child caregiver is referred to as the Hidden Patient. Only 10% of the primary caregivers feel that the responsibility of caregiving is equally distributed within the family.
Most of the time people focus on the patient and not the caregiver. The adult child caregiver is the lynchpin in keeping Mom and Dad safe and well. Think about the flight attendant who stands at the front of the crowded airplane and addresses everyone, “Remember to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others around you”. This does not seem like something one would do in a crisis, but it really is the right action to take. If you are not breathing, how can you take care of others? I might also add, “Buckle up. You are in for a bumpy ride!” Take care of yourself…walk, read, soak, socialize, and breath.
Barbara McVicker is an author, national speaker, and PBS-TV special Stuck in the Middle: caring for Mom and Dad. For more tips and information visit www.BarbaraMcVicker.com.